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PEQ. Because a smart home is so much fun!

2014 October 30
by Emily Hill

Have you ever been at work or running errands and wondered exactly what time your kids came through the door from school? Or left on vacation and worried your washing machine would leak all over your laundry room floor?

That last one is a very real fear for me because my washing machine is nearly 14 years old and has leaked all over my laundry room floor. At least three times. Nathan and Madison worked wonders and fixed the problem, but I still worry every time we leave for extended periods of time. Nathan put a water sensor near the machine but it only works if someone’s home to hear it. Not the smartest option.

And that is why I’m in love with PEQ.

PEQ Smart Home review

PEQ (pronounced “peek”) offers a quick-and-easy way to view, control and receive alerts using a single app on your laptop, smartphone or tablet. You choose the devices that work best for you and your needs (door and window sensors, water sensors, thermostat, light control, camera) and sign up for PEQ’s monthly service ($9.95). Once you’re registered and your items are in hand, you connect The Hub of Power (okay, it’s just a hub but it should be called The Hub of Power).

PEQ review

Then you start adding devices. And there’s no limit to the PEQ devices you can connect.

This is the fun part. For reals.

Want a camera in every main floor room, including the kitchen? Done.

PEQ review

Wishing your basement were a bit warmer before you return from Grandma’s house? Done.

Hoping a water sensor near the washing machine will activate Murphy’s Law so you won’t ever need said water sensor? Done. At least the installation part.

Need a motion sensor in the garage just in case you forget to close the garage door. Again. Done.

PEQ review

Maybe the motion sensor needs to be near the Halloween candy…

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. And I wrote that all in caps because as cool as it is to have cameras and door sensors and lighting control, creating rules to manage those devices is even cooler.

PEQ screenshot for rules

PEQ already has a few preset rules for you, but feel free to tweak those.

The best part is adding a new rule. Check out the suggestions they give you in the pop-up window:

PEQ app screenshot

Can you see the EVENT rule suggestion?

“When something happens, take action. For example, when a door opens, have a camera set to take a picture.”

That thing about having a motion sensor near the Halloween candy isn’t sounding so silly when you have a camera in the kitchen as well. Nothing like catching the kids—and the husband—red handed.

I do love the PEQ smartphone app. Here’s a screenshot after we set up everything and were headed to bed. It shows the view from the camera in the kitchen (pictured above) and tells me the lamp in the office is still on…which I turned off via my phone while brushing my teeth upstairs.

PEQ smartphone app screenshot

And here’s one from earlier today. Love how it shows the weather and my super cute plastic candy bowl.

I should probably move the bowl so I can actually see what’s going on in the kitchen.

PEQ smartphone app screenshot

Along with helping ease your worries about the safety of your home and family, PEQ also offers:

  • Installation help if needed.
  • The best user interface in the smart home industry.
  • Live, professional customer care and tech support seven days a week.
  • A device ecosystem certified and guaranteed to work with the PEQ service.
  • Extensive storage of video and pictures.
  • Live, streaming video to your laptop, smartphone or tablet.

This smart home service is pretty neat. If only they had a mobile camera I could put in the teenager’s car…

PEQ is available for purchase online at and various Best Buy locations across the U.S.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Pumpkin bars with orange butter frosting

2014 October 28
by Emily Hill

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post as part of the Whole Foods Ambassador program. All thoughts, opinions and hunger-inducing photos are 100 percent honest and all mine.

Why is it we don’t indulge in pumpkin-flavored treats all year long? I mean, I know we traditionally bust out the pumpkins starting in September, but you can get canned pumpkin year round. And considering the serious deliciousness of these pumpkin bars with orange butter frosting, I’m pretty sure we should eat them every holiday.

Pumpkin Bars with Orange Butter Frosting -- so delightful and delicious, they should be eaten year round! #pumpkin #recipe

The only random thing needed for this recipe is orange juice. Most everything else you should have on hand, which makes this recipe even more dangerous. It means you can make them any time you want. At any hour of the day or night.

For this recipe I shopped the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value line. I’d heard it was value priced “every day of the year” and formulated to meet Whole Foods’ quality standards. Plus most products come in both natural and organic selections, which is great because I don’t buy organic very often.

Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value

I’m here to tell you the flour, orange juice and pumpkin I picked up from our local Whole Foods was priced comparable to what I’d find at Smith’s. And I swear the orange juice was as great a price as I’d find at Walmart as well. I’m going to be honest—I was pretty surprised. Granted there are still enough items at Whole Foods to support the “Whole Paycheck” nickname, but there were a heck of a lot more affordable products than I thought. While talking to the cheesemonger (I put together a kick-a** cheese platter for Friday’s post), he told me if you see the “Lowest Price Guarantee” sticker on a product, that means it’s priced the same as or better than your grocery store brand. Bet you didn’t know that!

But I digress.

Make these pumpkin bars. Lick the orange butter frosting from the bowl. And try not to eat half the pan.

Printable recipe for pumpkin bars with orange butter frosting below.

Pumpkin Bars with Orange Butter Frosting
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
These pumpkin bars with orange butter frosting are so dang good you'll want to eat them year round.
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 (15-oz) can pumpkin
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 T orange juice
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Milk (optional; use to thin frosting)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15"x11" cookie sheet (with edges).
  2. Mix sugar, oil, eggs and pumpkin together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Add to pumpkin mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are golden and cake is completely set in the center.
  5. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Add more orange juice to desired flavor and/or milk to desired consistency. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.


Here are some other pumpkin recipes you should totally indulge in year round…

Soft and chewy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Soft & chewy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

pumpkin mini muffins doughnut holes

Cinnamon sugar pumpkin mini muffins

Four ingredient pumpkin cookies

Four-ingredient chocolate chip pumpkin cookies

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Maple pecan granola with Canadian maple syrup

2014 October 24
by Emily Hill

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for FitFluential LLC. Thoughts, opinions, and batches of maple pecan granola are 100 percent honest and all mine.

Did you know 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup comes from Canada, the majority from Quebec? I mean, I knew Canada was proud of their maple syrup thanks to that huge maple leaf on the flag, but 80 percent? That’s pretty amazing. Their maple trees must have some serious skills.

Pure Canada Maple Syrup 1

Mad skills indeed considering Canadian maple syrup is 100 natural (nothing else in that bottle, baby) and made directly from the sap of the sugar maple tree. The sap is boiled down 40 times—yes, 40 times!—to make the beautiful Canadian maple syrup you see pictured above and below.

I wanted to make sure you knew this was pure Canadian maple syrup.

Pure Canadian Maple Syrup

I know…the first thing that pops into your head when you hear “Canadian maple syrup” is how delicious it would be poured over pancakes or as a dip for your bacon. But it’s so much more than a topping. It adds depth to things like glazes, rubs and barbecue sauces and makes for some seriously tasty maple pecan granola.

Maple Pecan Granola with pure Canadian maple syrup #FitMaple

I’m not kidding when I say this maple pecan granola is yummy. I should know because I totally had a bowl of it after the photo shoot. And it’s healthy to boot thanks to Candian maple syrup being the only sweetener. And because that sweetener is unprocessed, it contains vitamins and minerals like manganese, riboflavin, zinc and potassium not to mention 54 different antioxidant compounds.

Way to fight those free radicals, Canadian maple trees!

To learn morea bout Canadian maple syrup, visit You’ll discover some pretty cool facts about their pure maple syrup and find some tasty maple syrup recipes like an all-natural maple sports drink and chestnut, mushroom and maple quinoa.

WAIT! I almost forgot maple water! I just discovered maple water is basically maple sap, the clear liquid that flows naturally through sugar maple trees. Like its syrup counterpart, maple water is chock full of the electrolytes, minerals and antioxidants naturally occurring in sugar maple trees. Plus it’s naturally low in sugar and has only 20 calories per serving (half the calories of coconut water), making it healthy and refreshing. Mixologists (gosh, I love that word!) use pure maple water in ice cubes and cocktails and chefs like to use it in marinades, soups, ice creams and sorbets.

I wonder what maple water ice cubes would taste like in Diet Coke? I may need to try it!

Printable recipe for maple pecan granola below.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Maple Pecan Granola
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
Pure Canadian maple syrup is the secret to the rich flavor of this maple pecan granola. Super easy and super delicious! Throw in a handful of raisins for added texture and flavor.
  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup ground flax seed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • ⅔ cup pure Canadian maple syrup
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix oats, pecans, walnuts, flax seed and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk canola oil, maple syrup, maple extract and salt together in a small bowl. Pour over oat mixture and stir until oats are thoroughly coated.
  4. Spread the granola evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake 40 minutes or until lightly browned.
  5. Cool completely before breaking into chunks and storing in an airtight container.

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Super easy chicken noodle soup

2014 October 21
by Emily Hill

This is a super easy chicken noodle soup recipe but let me clarify.

By “super easy” I mean “not as easy as opening a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup but easier than using a recipe that requires from-scratch chicken stock and the cooking and shredding of chicken breasts.”

Easy chicken noodle soup yet so full of flavor. Rotisserie chicken gives it a delicious roast chicken flavor.

Basically this super easy chicken noodle soup recipes is one of the easiest homemade chicken noodle soup recipes you can make and it’s full of yummy roast chicken flavor, chunks of tender carrots and celery and al dente pasta noodles (whole wheat if you love whole wheat pasta as much as I do). Feel free to tweak the amount of garlic and thyme according to taste. I think next time I make it, I will throw in a bit more salt and pepper.

Easy chicken noodle soup yet so full of flavor. Rotisserie chicken gives it a delicious roast chicken flavor.

I find this soup—and pretty much all soups—taste even better when served with a side of rolls like this closely guarded dinner roll recipe.

You’re gonna have to trust me on this one.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Super Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
Recipe type: Main dish
Cuisine: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
A hearty homemade chicken noodle soup recipe that is both easy and packed with flavor.
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1½ tsp)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut diagonally in ½-inch-thick slices
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, cut in ½-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (or broth)
  • 1 (13-oz) package whole wheat rotini
  • 1½ cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  1. Place a soup pot over medium heat and add oil. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 6 minutes until vegetables are tender but before onion brownes.
  2. Slowly pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer for 7 to 9 minutes or until al dente.
  3. Fold in chicken and continue to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until heated through; season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Here are some other delicious homemade soup recipes perfect for chillier weather.

Mom's chicken tortilla soup

Mom’s chicken tortilla soup

Zupas Wisconsin cauliflower soup

Cafe Zupas Wisconsin cauliflower soup

Homemade minestrone soup

Sniffle-friendly minestrone soup

Chicken taco soup

Slow cooker chicken taco soup

If you love homemade soup, check out my “soup recipes” Pinterest board. It’s full of all kinds of slurp-worthy soups.

Follow Emily Hill’s board soup recipes on Pinterest.

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

What to give (and what not to give) instead of Halloween candy

2014 October 16
by Emily Hill

Don’t get me wrong. I love all the mini Twix, bite-size Kit-Kat and full-size Snickers my kids bring home after trick-or-treating. But I can buy those any time of year. (Of course they’re half off the day after Halloween. And Christmas. And Valentine’s Day. And Easter.) What I really love are the creative alternatives to Halloween candy I see floating around the school parties and in my kids’ trick-or-treat bags.

And none of them require pipe cleaners, scrapbook paper and hot glue.

What to Give - and What NOT to Give - Instead of Halloween Candy

This year instead of Halloween candy, try passing out something a little different…a little less Laffy Taffy-ish. Here are some great ideas thanks to  a bit of brainstorming with the family.

Okay, it was just Madison and Nathan because Lauren and the others were already in bed but I think we did a pretty good job.

If you still want to give out food, try:

  • Homemade popcorn balls (these may get tossed for being suspicious but they’re so yummy)
  • Mini bags of Goldfish crackers or pretzels
  • Juice boxes
  • 100-calorie snack packs
  • Bottled water (to wash down all the candy)
  • Bags of microwave popcorn (see “according to moms…” section below)
  • Drink flavor packets
  • Coupons for free treats (e.g., Chick-fil-A sandwich, ice cream cone)

 If you’d rather give out toys, try:

  • Glow bracelets or glow sticks (thank you, Sari, for this idea!)
  • Bouncy balls
  • Mini coloring books
  • Spider rings
  • Tattoos (fake, not real)
  • Vampire teeth (also fake, not real)
  • Wax lips (just don’t leave them in the sun on the seat of a red tricycle)
  • Mini containers of play dough (although this is kind of a mean thing to do parents)
  • Bubbles (always a good option)
  • Cool bendy straws
  • Pinwheels (always a hit)
  • Small kaleidoscopes
  • Paddle balls

If you’d rather give out fun-yet-practical items, try:

  • Pencils (make sure they’re festive)
  • Bookmarks (make sure they’re cool)
  • Crayons
  • Sharpie markers (hahahahaha…totally kidding!)
  • Mini flashlight
  • Mini compass (so you can send the kids out on their own next year)
  • Holiday books
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Stickers (this may be considered a toy but this list was shorter)

According to my kids, you should NOT give out:

  • Fruit
  • Organic fruit & nut bars
  • Mini boxes of raisins
  • Toothbrushes
  • Floss
  • Anything to do with dental health
  • Anything other than a king-size candy bar
  • Anything less than a $5 bill

According to moms, you should NOT give out:

  • Noisemakers like kazoos and whistles and yes, even wind-up toys (not enough Diet Coke in the world)
  • Silly Putty or slime (always ends up ground into the carpet)
  • Mini slinky (always end up twisted)
  • Yo-yos (they can never figure them out)
  • Parachute guys (they’re good for only one jump…if that)
  • Ink stamps (you will find them on more than paper)
  • Bags of microwave popcorn (it’s always movie theater butter and it always ends up smeared all over the couch)


If you’re looking for some ideas as to how to handle the candy haul your kids are sure to bring home, check out our nifty ticket system. My kids love it and it’s super easy to manage.

Good thing I get unlimited tickets.

For some other fun Halloween ideas, check out my Halloween boards on Pinterest. You’ll find them at the top of the page!

Visit Emily Hill’s profile on Pinterest.

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

Soft & chewy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

2014 October 14
by Emily Hill

I’m not going to say much about these soft and chewy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies but here’s what you should know:

  • They got rave reviews at October’s PTA meeting. And everyone had at least three including our super fit, super healthy PTA president. No lie.
  • The recipe calls for Pillsbury Moist Supreme Perfectly Pumpkin Premium Cake Mix (the same cake mix in this fabulous pumpkin bundt cake). The mix is available August through January, so stock up when you find it.
  • The secret is cream cheese. Crazy, right?

If you’re going to make them, you may want to double the batch so you have enough to “boo” the neighbors AND indulge in some late-night snacking.

Not that I ever eat cookies after 10:00 p.m. or anything.

Soft and chewy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Printable recipe for soft and chewy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies below.

Soft & Chewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
When everyone at your monthly PTA meeting eats at least three cookies, you know the recipe is a good one. Just sayin'.
  • 1 (15.25-oz) package Pillsbury Perfectly Pumpkin cake mix
  • ½ cup salted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat butter, vanilla, egg and cream cheese until fluffy (about 2 to 3 minutes).
  3. Add cake mix and beat until combined.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto nonstick cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until just set.
  6. Cool 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
The Perfectly Pumpkin cake mix is available only August to January so stock up!

If you love all things pumpkin, check out my “fall is in the air” Pinterest board. It’s full of all kinds of fall goodies (baked and crafted).

Follow Emily Hill’s board fall is in the air on Pinterest.

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.

Super adorable (mostly no-sew) homemade Halloween costumes

2014 October 9
by Emily Hill

This post is totally for you, dear readers. You would be hard pressed to find me putting together homemade Halloween costumes even if it were of the “no sew” variety. Don’t get me wrong. I find them utterly and totally adorable, especially the owl costume (my favorite). I just don’t find myself utterly and totally homemade Halloween costume material. But many of you are, so here’s a collection of my favorite homemade costumes I’ve seen floating around the Interweb.

15 Homemade Halloween Costumes

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds costume
I might make a grownup version of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” costume from Simple Simon and Company.

photobooth strip costume
I’m loving this photobooth strip costume from Oh Happy Day.

owl Halloween costume
This owl Halloween costume from Darling Darleen is probably my favorite.

lumberjack costume
George would look so handsome in this lumberjack costume from Make It & Love It.

DIY tooth fairy costume
And Livi would love this DIY tooth fairy costume from 235 Designs.

garden gnome Halloween costume
I need another baby just so I can dress him up like a garden gnome thanks to Adventure in a Box.

no sew olaf costume
How adorable is this no sew Olaf costume from Crazy Little Projects?

no sew pumpkin tutu
Every little girl needs a no sew pumpkin tutu from Craft Passion.

DIY LEGO Movie costume
We’re fans of The LEGO Movie so this DIY LEGO Movie costume from Here Comes the Sun is a hit!

easy tin man costume
This easy tin man costume from Simply Kierste is one of my favorite from this year.

Boxtroll Halloween costume
This boxtroll costume from Red Ted Art is probably the easiest out of the bunch but no less cute.

homemade jellyfish costume
Hard to believe this jellyfish costume from Giggles Galore takes only 10 minutes!

DIY pineapple no sew baby costume
This DIY pineapple no-sew baby costume from Lines Across is crazy cute (so my teenagers would say).

felt monarch butterfly wings
How easy and beautiful are these felt monarch butterfly wings from Buggy and Buddy?

candy corn homeamde Halloween costume
This super simple yet super “sweet” candy corn costume from Duke & Duchesses makes me super happy.

If you’re like me and aren’t interested in handcrafting Halloween costumes this season, check out these awesome superhero costumes (Wonder Woman included) and Disney princess costumes I found on eBay. They’re amazing and affordable!

ps post script

Feel free to “like” is this REALLY my life? on Facebook. It won’t always earn you an extra entry in a giveaway but it will give you warm fuzzies.

Don’t forget to sign up for free is this REALLY my life? updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss a single awesome post.